Navigating marine social-ecological systems

We aimed to identify and/or improve our understanding of institutional, social and cultural factors that need to be incorporated into EBM for it to be successfully used to manage Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine resources.

Project Leader Duration Budget
Karen Fisher (University of Auckland) April 2016 – September 2019 $920,000


Our research used social science to examine key issues in the marine environment. We engaged with Māori, industry representatives, resource managers, decision makers, environmental organisations and communities.  

We considered how knowledge about cumulative effects – environmental effects resulting from multiple activities over time – can improve decision-making for the marine environment. In 2016, we hosted a workshop with 40 scientists and senior policymakers from across New Zealand. It supported cross-institutional and cross-cultural dialogue to address issues raised by cumulative effects. 

We used sci-art and creative works to engage New Zealanders about EBM and the risks to the marine environment from human activities. We held sci-art workshops with 1600 students at 16 schools in Nelson and Marlborough. The resulting combined artwork created by the students, The Unseen, was exhibited at Albion Square, Nelson. We have also produced short films and other creative outputs to engage with the public. 

This sciart education project is part of our 'Navigating marine social-ecological systems' project, which aims to identify and/or improve our understanding of important institutional, social and cultural factors that need to be incorporated into ecosystem-based management, for it to be successful in New Zealand.


Another focus of our research was to understand how trust among researchers can enhance the quality of knowledge needed for EBM. We used focus groups and interviews to consider how trust is developed and maintained between Challenge researchers and experts who have diverse interests and experiences. We also explored the Challenge’s capacity to build trust with Māori and stakeholders.  

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This is a national project.